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Senator Murkowski Introduces Bill to Finalize Land Selections for Southeast Alaska Natives

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Senator Mark Begich, to finalize the land due to Southeast Alaska Natives, through Sealaska, under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The bill will convey approximately 70,000 acres to Sealaska, partially addressing the inequity of severely restricted withdrawal areas under the original act. The bill permits Sealaska to select economic lands, small parcels, and cemetery sites and historical places that support the cultural, social and economic welfare of Alaska Native people, as ANCSA intended.

Sealaska was established to ensure economic and cultural vitality for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. “Sealaska is measured by more than economic success,” said Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil Jr. “From a village perspective, we must find solutions to extremely high energy costs. This bill will provide a small foundation to resolve the grinding energy problems that face every village resident and start to tear down a barrier to sustainable village economies. Just as important is the health and vitality of Southeast Native culture. We have included important cultural and historic sites in Sealaska’s land selections under the bill. The sites represent our strong tie to the land but ensure that future generations will continue to have the opportunity to learn from the past.”

This legislation finalizes a congressional commitment dating back to 1971 to Southeast Natives. “At its core, the legislation represents a negotiated agreement for Native people,” said Rosita Worl, Sealaska board vice chair. “Sealaska is not receiving one acre more than what was promised, but rather establishes where Sealaska may select its remaining lands. Once Sealaska’s settlement is finalized, Sealaska ownership of aboriginal lands will only equal 1.5 percent of our historic Native homelands in the Southeast region.”

Sealaska has partnered with the Obama Administration, the Alaska Delegation, rural and urban communities, the business community, tribal entities, environmental organizations and numerous other interest groups to develop a comprehensive solution to issues facing the region, according to Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh. “By moving away from roadless old-growth areas and important municipal watersheds, we are confident that the bill addresses numerous local, regional and national concerns,” he said. “The bill now includes 150,000 acres of new conservation lands, including 94,000 acres requested by Trout Unlimited. While a higher number of acres will be placed into conservation than what is actually being conveyed to Southeast Natives, Sealaska strives to work with others on sustainable solutions for place that is home to us all.”

Legislation highlights:
  • Finalizes ANCSA acreage for Sealaska for continued economic development
  • Allows cemetery site selections, but limits total acreage to 490 acres
  • Reduces the number of small economic or Native ownership sites to nine as a result of opposition
  • Creates 100-foot buffers on three anadromous streams
  • Creates new conservation areas
  • 56 percent of new selections are old growth and 32 percent young growth (remainder, non-timber land)
  • Protection for continued public access
To read full press release, please click here.

Senate Bill
House Bill
Senator Murkowski

 

 
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